Improvement, Innovation, Invention – We need them all

Zern Liew is a strategic design consultant.

I know of him because I spend a lot time thinking and writing about the interplay of Improvement, Innovation and Invention. And Zern writes about such things. In the area of design consultants the distinction of these three notions really matters. And, I think in the world of faith formation and cultural impact they also really matter.

These three stages of creation take on different degrees of the creation process. They are all important. But they are also different.

In the Cana Initiative we desire to connect people and organizations for the purpose of a Generous Christianity in North America. In this effort we need the improvers, the innovators and the inventors.
This will mean creating distinct avenues of connection for the improvers, the innovators and the inventors.

Here is how Zern puts it on his website.

Invention, Innovation & Improvement

Innovation is sometimes used synonymously with Invention and Improvement. Here is how I differentiate the three:

A never-before seen, brand new concept. Usually the product of scientific R&D or serious thinking. An example would be the creation of a new plastic compound.

A new invention or a combination of existing concepts made emotionally desirable and therefore commercially viable. Innovation happens when the new plastic compound is used to manufacture a toy.

A change that has minor impact on the fundamental nature of the underlying concept; but serves to extend the emotional appeal and on-going (usually short-term) commercial viability. To continue the example: the said toy is now available in different configurations.


In coming weeks the Cana Initiative will be offering a number of ways to meet face to face and online in these acts of improving, innovating and inventing.


Doug Pagitt is the director of the Cana Initiative.

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